Government orders more disclosure on hazardous rail cargoes

(Reuters) — Canada will require railways to start telling municipalities what goods they have been transporting through their jurisdictions, but the government acknowledged that such data would not have prevented the July derailment that demolished the heart of a Quebec town, killing 47 people.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said on Nov. 20 her directive on railway disclosure met a request made by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities after a runaway train carrying crude oil exploded in the center of Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July.

Railways will be required to provide annual information on the volume and nature of dangerous goods being transported in order to help communities conduct risk assessments and emergency response planning, and to train firefighters and other first responders.

"This part isn't about prevention. This part is about response," Raitt told reporters.

The president the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Claude Dauphin, said the announcement was welcome news.

"The Lac-Mégantic tragedy, and recent derailments in other parts of the country, have underscored the critical role that municipalities play in planning for and responding to rail emergencies involving dangerous goods," he said.

But opposition leader Thomas Mulcair of the left-leaning New Democrats said it was a Band-Aid solution. He decried the fact that the volume of oil transported by rail has soared without a corresponding increase in federal inspectors.

"Informing the public three months or one year later is not anything to brag about," he said.

Canada's biggest railways are Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway. The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic was operated by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.